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Hard-hitting and hilariousa road map for reclaiming America AltibOr Of If the Gods Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidat s Ai Jim Hightower is a tireless champion for every American, and he has the right prescription for what ails our nation.” Jesse Jackson Jr., U.S. representative from Illinois Don’t just read ittake Hightower’s message to heart, take action on it, and take your country back!” Michael Moore, author of Stupid White Men VIKING “Somebodies,” continued from page 9 any way democratic. When you enter the low-wage workplace and many of the medium-wage workplaces as wellyou check your civil liberties at the door, leave America and all it supposedly stands for behind, and learn to zip your lips for the duration of the shift. …We can hardly pride ourselves on being the world’s preeminent democracy, after all, if large numbers of citizens spend half their waking hours in what amounts, in plain terms, to a dictatorship…. he indignities imposed on so many low-wage workersthe drug tests, the constant surveillance, being “reamed out” by managersare part of what keeps wages low. If you’re made to feel unworthy enough, you may come to think that what you’re paid is what you are actually worth. Sixty percent of American workers make less than $14 an hour, which was calculated in 1998 to be a living wage for a family of one adult and two children. Ehrenreich contends that ours is a culture “of extreme inequality” This culture is a not fully conscious product of an economy that depends upon “the underpaid labor of others.” The top 40 percent of us can better afford housing, child care, food, and entertainment because the working poor are “the major philanthropists of our society,” writes Ehrenreich. “They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high.” While most civilized nations provide low-wage earners with such public services as health care, child care, and affordable housing, “the United States, for all its wealth, leaves its citizens to fend for themselves.” It’s a helluva proposition to build a labor movement in a service economy that is founded on workplaces that are fragmented and in some cases virtual. We’ve even seen portions of the service economy move overseas. \(It’s not unusual to find yourself talking to a help desk in another country when your computer or aging parent cannot be farmed out to another country. And so we have a place to start. We also have to look at the difficulties created by welfare reform and the disasters perpetrated on the poor by recent state and federal government actions. Universal health care, a living wage, decent affordable housing, and access to higher education and job training should be nonnegotiable. Currently, they’re unthinkable. That has to change. Economic justice begets dignity. Not the other way around. Robert Fuller wasn’t cleaning out bedpans or serving Nathan’s Famous while he was waiting for that phone to ring. Barbara Ehrenreich tells us about all those who never get the call and never expect to. Both say it’s time we all got the message that this economic and social disequilibrium must be corrected. Geoff Rips is a former Observer editor. His daughters, Gabriela and Sascha, also suggest that readers look into Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress by Debra Ginsberg and The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. 8/1/03 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19